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A unique vintage Navajo silver and turquoise cuff

bracelet set with a silver Kennedy half dollar, c.1960’s

SILVER COINS were a critical part of the creation of Navajo jewelry from the very beginning, since they were

the basic raw materials from which it was originally made. Initially, beginning in the last half of the 19th century, American or Mexican silver coins would be melted down and cast into ingot-silver slugs from which jewelry pieces were then fashioned. Sometimes the actual coins themselves were hammered out directly to form smaller pieces of jewelry such as pins and rings without first being melted. Small coins such as Barber-style quarters and Barber and Mercury-style dimes were also often made into buttons which were worn by Navajo men and women as adornment and were also commonly used as currency at various Indian trading posts and elsewhere.

Somewhat later, as other, commercial sources of silver became more commonly available, American silver coins began to be used more as decorative elements in Navajo jewelry pieces rather than just being the raw materials; bracelets and buckles were set with Morgan-style or other silver dollars, “squash-blossom” style necklaces were made with rows of half-dollars, quarters or dimes as the “squashes” and sometimes the central naja pendant.

All of which brings us to this marvelous John F. Kennedy 1964 silver half dollar bracelet.

“JFK Was a Mighty Warrior for Indian Country”

-Navajo attorney, Chris Stearns' article for

“Indian Country Today” November 22, 2013

“My administration would see to it that the Government of the United States discharges its moral obligation to our first Americans by inaugurating

a comprehensive program for the improvement of their health, education,

and economic well-being.”

-John F. Kennedy, 1960

This beautiful silver cuff bracelet takes this a step further enshrining and framing the Kennedy silver half dollar coin in a lovely, almost ceremonial-looking surround of six finely hand-carved blue turquoise stones. The Kennedy half-dollar coin was first issued in 1964 by the U.S. Mint as an official Government tribute to the late President who was assassinated on November 22, 1963. The bracelet takes the idea of such a tribute and makes it tangible and three-dimensional, it is both a beautiful and movingly solemn presentation and commemoration of JFK’s life and legacy. The bracelet has an older sensibility than the 1960’s date would seem to indicate and was likely made by an older silversmith as the overall style and design of this piece is more akin to the Navajo jewelry of the1930’s and 1940’s than the 1960’s.

John F. Kennedy, 35th President of The United States.

Photo copyright Getty Images

It is the continuation of the tradition of using silver coins as decorative elements in Navajo jewelry, but it contains a new and significant additional element which is the fact that President Kennedy himself was widely considered a hero in American Indian Country for his strong and vocal support of Native american culture, land rights, healthcare and education. This sentiment was particularly evident among the Navajo people and we have seen various other examples of this admiration and respect for JFK expressed over the years in other Navajo artworks such as various Navajo pictorial weavings featuring woven portraits of JFK or by using his initials or the letters of his full name along with depictions of the American flag or the White House.

The nicely split-chiseled shank of the bracelet measures 1 3/8” in width at its widest center point and it tapers down to 3/4” in width at the terminals. The inner circumference end-to-end is 5 3/8” and the gap between the terminals is 7/8” for a total interior circumference of 6 1/4". It weighs a satisfying, but very comfortable 51 grams or 1 3/4 ounces. The bracelet is not marked for a maker and it is in excellent original condition. The tiny initials “BWI” are inscribed on the interior. This could be an old “trader’s code” or someone’s personal initials.

This bracelet is a beautiful piece of traditional Navajo jewelry and a poignant, historical document. It’s a

truly unique cross-cultural piece of American history. Here’s your chance to vote for JFK again.

Price $1,100

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